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Strategy Competition Highlights INSEAD’s Sustainability-Focused MBA Curriculum

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Sustainability is critical for companies to remain competitive through the 21st century’s increasing environmental challenges. The next generation of leaders and changemakers must be prepared to develop innovative solutions and strategies. 

Addressing these issues is the INSEAD Consulting Club, which, in partnership with global consulting firm Accenture, hosted a sustainability strategy competition this past spring for MBA students. The event was the first nod to the recent launch of INSEAD’s renewed MBA curriculum, which has embedded sustainability into its core courses to ensure graduates integrate sustainability into their business decisions and tackle global challenges. 

“Today’s consulting industry is being reshaped to accommodate new corporate needs, especially with regard to issues such as sustainability. So, the competition offered INSEAD MBA students who may want to transition into consulting a unique opportunity to tackle a real-world business problem on a hot-button topic,” said Celine Dumas, Strategy Senior Manager at Accenture and INSEAD alumna (MBA’20J), who helped to mentor the competition finalists, in the school’s coverage of the event

MBA students from all INSEAD campuses were tasked with designing a new sustainability strategy for “Sports & Co,” an imagined global sports products manufacturer and retailer with a multi-billion-euro turnover. The challenge to students was to help Sports & Co remake its business and operating model to continue growing without increasing its carbon emissions.

Three student teams — Peak Performance Partners, Real MadrINSEAD, and Sportsead — progressed to the competitive final of the contest, held online in March. The teams made their pitches for Sports & Co to a judging panel comprising senior executives from Accenture and the Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society. INSEAD’s Deputy Dean and Dean of Innovation, Peter Zemsky, hosted the panel.

The teams’ pitches encompassed strategies to curtail carbon emissions from the core business, transition to renewable energy sources, and collaborate with suppliers to reduce their carbon footprint. They also proposed introducing innovative product development like eco-designed sports equipment, circular business lines, and creating a closed-loop system for the supply chain. These measures were projected to reduce carbon emissions by nearly a third while still boosting revenue.

Peak Performance also put forward a five-year transformation roadmap that included a customer “super-app” to foster a user community and hiring a Chief Sustainability Officer to instill a culture of sustainability into everyday operations. They also advised partnering with sustainability-focused firms for effective strategy integration. This more comprehensive approach put the team over the top as the competition winners. 

During the finals, the judging panel discussed the increasing importance of sustainability in corporate strategy and its integration into INSEAD MBA’s curriculum. The imperative to drive sustainability compels companies to scrutinize everything from products to supply chains. Currently, this process is often left incomplete, and corporate social responsibility divisions championing an environmental, social, and governance agenda (ESG) find themselves marginalized. The reality is that data scarcity and complex supply chains hinder reshaping strategies for reducing emissions. 

On the bright side, retail leaders are adopting data-driven approaches to decarbonize and revamp products, and they’re increasingly involving suppliers in these efforts. Innovative circular economy models emphasizing reuse, repair, rental, and recycling are gaining traction. Circular business models necessitate collaborative efforts among companies, governments, and stakeholders for widespread change, and entities such as Materiact, Citizen Capital, and Sustainable Apparel Coalition are pioneering industry and societal changes. 

Lorien Alecki, Strategy and Consulting Manager with Accenture and INSEAD alum MBA’20D, also mentored competition finalists. About the panel she says, “The panel’s reflections put the competition in a real-world business context. They also served to highlight how important it is for students to understand the complexities of sustainability and how success involves applying their sustainability skills to all aspects of general management – from strategy and operations to finance, marketing and more.” 

Read more about INSEAD’s updated MBA curriculum here

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.